THE Scottish Government has announced plans to extend emergency coronavirus laws by at least six months.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said it is "clear" some provisions will be required after the current expiry date of September 30. 

But the Scottish Tories accused the SNP of "trying to railroad" new legislation through Holyrood without proper scrutiny.

MSPs passed two emergency coronavirus Acts last year, both in single day sittings, that were aimed at helping the country fight the virus.

The new laws made changes to the justice system, including allowing for the early release of prisoners if the virus caused issues within the prison service, the rental sector and the functions of public bodies.

The current measures are due to expire at the end of September, but the Government wants to extend some of the provisions until March 31 next year.

Mr Swinney said a new Bill will be introduced in the coming days, with the Government aiming to pass the legislation before Holyrood breaks for summer recess at the end of this month.

Under the new Bill, the Scottish Parliament would also be given the power to extend the legislation for a further six months, to September 30, 2022.

Mr Swinney said the Bill "expires a number of provisions which are no longer considered necessary". 

He said many provisions have already been scrapped "in line with the government's commitment to remove provisions that are no longer necessary to support the ongoing public health response". 

However, Scottish Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said it was "hard to see" how an extension of the "extraordinary and unprecedented powers" could be justified for that length of time, particularly given the success of the vaccine rollout.

He added: "But even more worrying is the proposed timetable for this Bill, because the Scottish Government are trying to railroad through this new law, with its extension of extraordinary powers, in two weeks' time, before the summer recess, with no time for detailed consultation or scrutiny, and more than three months before the current powers are set to expire."

Mr Swinney said the Bill is a temporary extension of some of the existing powers, and that no new measures will be introduced.

He said ministers want to make sure "there is no dubiety in place" for public services, such as Scotland's courts system, ahead of the expiry date in September.

Mr Swinney added: "I would suggest the courts and other organisations would require more notice than if we were to handle this legislation at the start of September."

He said the Government will propose three days of debate in the Scottish Parliament to allow for scrutiny. 

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "The last coronavirus legislation, passed as it was in those weeks of high infection and as the nation moved into lockdown, by necessity went through Parliament at breakneck speed. 

"As a result, disabled people had rights suspended. We still have illiberal mental health powers. 

"The Government would have ended hundreds of years of trial by jury in a single line of text, had Liberal Democrats not worked with others to stop it. That’s why scrutiny matters. 

“The Government must publish the Bill before summer, so that its impact can be thought through, and everyone can have their say, and give Parliament adequate time for scrutiny when it returns after summer."

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie asked Mr Swinney if an eviction ban will be included in the new Bill.

The ban, which covers any area under Level 3 or 4 of Covid restrictions - currently no part of Scotland - began before Christmas to ensure no-one could lose their home during the pandemic, but is not part of either of the two emergency Acts.

Mr Swinney, who has previously said an extension to the ban was "under close consideration", told Ms Baillie it is being looked at by officials.

"I give Jackie Baillie the commitment that the Government will engage constructively on this particular question, recognising the seriousness of the issue that she raises and the threats that are posed to individuals as a consequence of evictions," Mr Swinney said.